1. In order to ensure the continued fulfilment of its judicial function at all times, the Court has made arrangements, through the use of modern technologies, to hold hearings by video link and to adapt its working methods to the need to work remotely 2
2. With regard to the holding of public sittings, the Court has amended Articles 59 and 94 of its Rules, which now read as follows:
New paragraph 2 of Article 59
“The Court may decide, for health, security or other compelling reasons, to hold a hearing entirely or in part by video link. The parties shall be consulted on the organization of such a hearing.”
Amended paragraph 2 of Article 94
“The judgment shall be read at a public sitting of the Court. The Court may decide, for health, security or other compelling reasons, that the judgment shall be read at a sitting of the Court accessible to the parties and the public by video link. The judgment shall become binding on the parties on the day of the reading.”
3. Hearings by video link will be conducted in the same manner as in person hearings. Thus, the same procedure for the conduct of in person hearings will apply to remote hearings. However, this procedure might need to be adjusted in light of the technical complexities involved.
4. The Court has also drawn up the present guidelines to assist parties taking part in hearings by video link. These guidelines are without prejudice to the Court’s Statute, the Rules of Court and the relevant Practice Directions.
5. The Court, with the assistance of the Registry, is responsible for the logistical organization and technical preparation of hearings by video link. The parties, however, are expected to co operate with the Registry and provide their support for the successful conduct of the hearing. To that end, the Registrar will inform the parties of the manner in which the hearing will be organized and engage in technical consultations with the parties in advance of the remote hearing.
(a) Pre hearing consultations
6. In advance of the hearing by video link, the Registrar will seek to ascertain the views of the parties on the modalities of the hearing, the length of the remote hearing — taking into account the different time zones of the participants — and the proposed platform and other technical arrangements. The parties will indicate the number of participants, whether they intend to make use of PowerPoint presentations or slides and submit electronic judges’ folders, whether the oral hearings require the examination of experts or witnesses, and any other special requirement.
7. Pursuant to Article 58, paragraph 2, of the Rules of Court, the order in which the parties will be heard, the method of handling the evidence and of examining any witnesses and experts, and the number of counsel and advocates to be heard on behalf of each party will be settled by the Court after the views of the parties have been ascertained in accordance with Article 31 of the Rules of Court.
(b) Technical preparation
8. At least three days before the hearing by video link, the Registry will communicate the link through which the parties will be able to participate in the hearing, as well as relevant practical information thereon.
9. The Information Department and the external service provider will hold, at least one day before the hearing, practice sessions or tutorials with the legal teams of both parties, in order to ensure the correct functioning of the technical equipment, resolve any questions or problems that might arise, and ensure adequate sound and video quality.
10. The Court will not be responsible for any parallel channels of communication among the parties’ legal teams.
(c) Ensuring the high quality of hearings
11. The parties are invited to co operate with the Information Department of the Court and the external service provider and take appropriate steps to ensure the high quality of hearings by video link. In particular, they are invited to check the following prior to each session:
- Connectivity: That the devices of their participants in the hearing are properly connected to the internet. For optimal quality, it is highly recommended to use a wired connection (Ethernet) rather than Wi Fi. When using Wi Fi, participants are invited to be in close proximity to the router or access point. At all times, participants should avoid using equipment that interferes with connectivity, audio or video.
- Video: That the camera of their participants in the hearing is working, that their location is properly lit, that the camera is not pointed towards a window or a light source, and that the video is well framed. For optimal video quality, it is highly recommended to have a colour neutral background.
- Audio: That the microphone and speakers of all their participants in the hearing are working, that there is no background noise, and that all other devices and programmes (such as telephones, televisions, radios, Skype, emails etc.) are switched off. To ensure optimal sound quality, it is highly recommended to use a headset or Bluetooth earphones. It is also recommended to avoid moving the microphone during the session and to speak directly and very clearly into the microphone, preferably from a distance of 30 cm to 50 cm, and at a moderate pace, not exceeding 100 words per minute.
12. Before entering a hearing of the Court remotely by video link, all participants in the hearing are expected to isolate themselves and ensure that the hearing is not disrupted by third party individuals or extraneous factors. If that is not possible, participants are requested to indicate this to the Registrar in advance to explore possible solutions.
13. With a view to ensuring an orderly process throughout the hearing, the following etiquette is suggested:
(a) Agents, counsel and advocates are invited to click on the link which will be made available to them by the Information Department at least 20 minutes before the start time of the remote hearing, and keep their microphones muted.
(b) At the beginning of the hearing, the President will note that a number of judges are participating by video link; they will appear on the screen, together with the judges present in the Great Hall of Justice. The President will also call on the agents to present up to four members of their delegations who will be taking the floor; they will appear on the screen at the beginning of the hearings. No other participant will be allowed to join the electronic platform after the commencement of the remote hearing.
(c) Once the hearing has begun, in order to ensure that the images on the screen are of good quality, only the speaker and any PowerPoint presentations will be displayed. As usual during the Court’s public hearings, web streamed images will alternate depending on the course of the hearings, showing the President, judges, delegations of the parties to the case, representatives of the parties who are speaking or images from PowerPoint presentations.
(d) The President will give the floor to each participant and invite any questions from the judges.
(e) All participants are invited to speak clearly and at a moderate pace, not exceeding 100 words per minute, for optimal sound quality and to ensure that their presentations can be interpreted effectively into the other official language of the Court.
(f) During the hearing, the microphones of all participants will be operated by the technicians contracted by the Court, to ensure optimal audio visual quality and prevent disruptions and disorderly discussions.
(g) During the breaks, all participants are expected to remain connected to the virtual platform, with their microphones muted and their cameras switched off, so as to prevent disruptions and disorderly discussions. The live streaming on the Court’s website and on UN Web TV will stop and will resume at the end of the break.
(h) If a participant or group of participants have a technical problem, they are invited to log off and contact the technical support telephone number provided to them from a separate room. The technical support team will help them reconnect or follow the contingency plans prepared by the Registry for this purpose.
14. During hearings by video link, all participants are expected to observe the attire they would usually wear during an in person hearing.
15. The parties may present electronically any documentary, audio visual or photographic evidence they wish during the hearing by video link, in strict conformity with the provisions of the Court’s Statute, the Rules of Court and the relevant Practice Directions. This includes the use of PowerPoint presentations and slides. The parties will be entirely responsible for the visual presentation of PowerPoint presentations, slides and other audio visual materials during the remote hearing.
16. The parties may prepare and submit electronic folders of documents for the convenience of the judges during the oral proceedings, in conformity with the relevant Practice Directions. Any such electronic folders will be communicated digitally to the Registry sufficiently in advance of the hearing and the Registry will distribute them to the judges.
17. Pursuant to Article 62, paragraph 2, of the Rules of Court, the Court may, if necessary, arrange for the remote participation of a witness or expert to give evidence in the hearing by video link.
18. In addition to the elements mentioned in Article 57 of the Rules of Court, each party will communicate to the Registrar, in sufficient time before the opening of the hearing by video link, the log in location and point of connection of the witness or expert concerned, as well as his or her contact details, so as to enable the Court to make the necessary arrangements for the remote taking of evidence.
19. Pursuant to Article 51 of the Court’s Statute and Article 65 of the Rules of Court, any relevant questions are to be put to the witnesses and experts under the conditions laid down by the Rules of Court and under the control of the President.
20. Before the beginning of the oral hearing, witnesses and experts are expected to isolate themselves and ensure that no other person is with them. Witnesses and experts will not participate in the remote hearing before testifying. The Court may, at any time during the examination of experts and witnesses, enquire as to their physical location.
21. As a general principle, witnesses and experts will give their evidence during the course of the hearing under the direction of the Court and in accordance with the directives communicated to them by the Registry.
22. After the President has declared the hearing closed, the judges participating by video link will disconnect first, before all other participants. The electronic platform will then close automatically, without enabling any further comments or statements to be made by any other participant.
1 Adopted on 13 July 2020.
2 The terms “by video link” and “remotely” are used interchangeably to denote hearings and working practices that are not “in-person”.